Chapter 4





by Mordechai Berenstein


In the last Nazi Holocaust, the fate of the well-known congregations was more bitter than the saying of the prophet; as there will only remain “one from a town and a prince from a family” (one from a city and one from a family).  In front of the town where not even one survived, who would be a live witness?  From the last slaughter of the congregation, there was no one left who could give a correction, a destroyed life of the congregation. Of those Jewish shtetls, Selets was actually named.  From that congregation, we earlier brought up a succession of chapters, which cover earlier periods of time from Selets - it lacks however the last time of slaughter of the congregation.


Through an accident, however, what was saved was a bundle of documents, which referred to the very last years of the eve of the Holocaust.  Those were a great number of postcards and contribution lists from Selets, at the Yeshiva Council in Poland, which were found in Vilna.  These documents were held in the archives of Yivo in New York.  The correspondence was sent chiefly on postcards. (I will show a reproduction of such a card on both sides,)  The correspondent was Meir Chaim Rubinshtein.  Each postcard was from the years 1937 to 1939, and on them is the name of the contributors.  There were not any great amounts (of money) - about 10 to 15 zlotas a month - a particularly great sum was in the Yitro portion, which was the portion when we used to carry out an action especially before the Yeshivas.


From one of those Yitro credit unions, we gave out the contributors-lists. It is to be seen that from 21 guildens and 55 groschen, donations were given from 20 groschen up to one guilden.  From the contributions, we find out also the names of the Seltzer Rabbi, Joseph-Isaac Velimavski and, as shochet-inspector, Rabbi Moshe Noah Gorodezki; also in the shtetl, there was a teacher, a bachelor, Moshe Friedkin.  Concerning that shochet (ritual slaughterer), Moshe Noah Gorodezki, the correspondent, Meir Chaim Rubinshtein, several times asked, being a stranger, who is much involved in the action before the Yeshiva Council, that the center should send him a companion-identity-card, a kind of membership acknowledgement.


In one of the postcards from the 25th of Shevat, 5698 (1937), there is a judgment about the donations in the Yitro credit union which, among other things, was spoken about.


From the Hebrew text

At the time, I found upon me the obligation to recognize goodness and to say something on behalf of those who say that many of the opponents of Hasidim were in this business to vow and donate on the Sabbath to the Yitro on behalf of the Council of the Yeshivas, because it was known at the time that the situation was very horrible, and money in the town as distressing as Selets. Thus, our shochet-inspector, Rabbi Moshe Noah Gorodezki, preached before the reading of the Torah, and, in his explanation, decided to get in every way into the hearts of the listeners who even showed that they did not have even the sense on behalf of the donors; also they came with hospitality, and we will gather an amount like his (so that our town can too)


From the Yiddish

That means:

And now I’m holding it as my duty to say that there were a lot of opposition to the donations, and the donations for the Yeshivas in the Yitro, while it is known that the time was now fearsome, particularly in such a small shtetl as Selets.  But the shochet, Rabbi Moshe Noah Gorodezki, before reading, took the floor and, with his flaming speech, reached the heart of everyone, even the free thinkers, who had no feeling for this affair and did not willingly want to be taxed, and it was all right, for them,  to get a very important sum, according with the possibility for our shtetl.


It will permit us to send out the sum of 36 guilden and 45 groschen.  From that, 21 guilden and 45 groschen plus 14 guilden and 90 groschen from the pushkes (contribution boxes).